It is now becoming increasingly clear that the Free Senior High School (SHS) programme is former President John Dramani Mahama’s Achilles’ heel as the ex-Ghanaian leader continuous to bastardise the policy at any given opportunity, Today can report.
Mr Dramani Mahama, who is the flag-bearer of the opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) for the 2020 poll, has since the implementation of the Free SHS in September 2017, tried to discredit the programme, claiming its implementation was not well-thought through.
The Akufo-Addo administration wasted no time in implementing the Free SHS programme after winning power in the 2016 election.
The policy was a promise the party trumpeted as far back as 2008.
It took only seven months for free SHS education to begin, with the first years, numbering about 400,000 starting school in the 2017/18 academic year.
The policy has seen the government absorb the full cost of public secondary education, with beneficiaries not having to pay admission fees, examination fees, and utility fees, among others.
But, according to Mr Dramani Mahama, while speaking to NDC members in Tarkwa in the Western Region during somewhere in November 2017, faulted the implementation of the programme, and called for a national dialogue and stakeholder conference on the free SHS policy to make it better.
“…for this to be just the first year, and we are seeing such problems, then it means these problems are going to be multiplied by three,” the NDC flag-bearer was reported to have said.
He [Mr Dramani Mahama] was also equally not happy with the introduction of the double track system by the government last year to absorb more students.
According to him, it was unwise to implement the free SHS policy at all cost, insisting that, national dialogue on the programme was the way forward.
“Introducing shift system for SHS? It doesn’t help to continue to implement this all important free SHS programme on an ad hoc basis. It’s not too late to hold a comprehensive national consultation to forge a consensus on a sustainable framework for its implementation. #Ghana,” the former president twitted at that time
His latest outburst was reportedly to do with the investment of GH¢2 billion by the government in the free SHS in the second semester to the detriment of other sectors of the economy.
He described the over-concentration of funds on the SHS, in defiance of wise counsel from the academia and stakeholders, as a move that had the tendency to negatively affect education and collapse the sector.
Mr Dramani Mahama made these observations while addressing a packed audience of lecturers and students of the University of Cape Coast (UCC) on “the State of Education in Ghana last week Thursday as part of his tour in the Central Region.
Mr Dramani Mahama said taking cognisance of the importance of education to the nation’s socio-economic development and the dictates of the 1992 Constitution, his government decided to take all segments of education seriously, adding that the current “ad hoc approach to education will collapse the system.”
He said the populist and not-thought-through policy of the government had “depleted the GETFund of all funds,” thereby mounting intense pressure on other sectors of education.
“The huge influx of pupils into the SHS and the tertiary institutions, as a result of not preparing adequately, will invariably affect the development of those areas,” he added.
In view of such developments, former President Dramani Mahama said he would, in consultation with all stakeholders, review the free SHS policy within three months when voted again into power.
“When I become President, in the first to three months, we will hold stakeholder, roundtable discussions and come up with a consensus, so we will not to toy with the future of the country,” he said.
The occasion was also graced by National Democratic Congress (NDC) stalwarts such as the National Chairman, Mr Samuel Ofosu Ampofo; former Chief of Staff, Mr Julius Debrah; former Security Coordinator, Mr Kofi Totobi Quakye, as well as party executives and faithful.
Story: Atta KWAKU BOADI
Writer’s email: email@example.com